Tips for Customizing Hand-Drawn Fonts in a Logo, Title or Masthead


I wanted to use a nice cartoony font for the masthead of Pop and Locke's Last Heist. Blambot is always a great source for very well-done fonts in a variety of comic book styles. Nate Piekos has been in the business a long time and it's hard to beat the price for his fonts.

I used 12 Ton Goldfish. It looks great, but there is a common problem with hand-drawn fonts. When you have repeating letters, like the Ps and Os, you can tell they're identical to each other. It's an immediate tip-off that you just used a font without any additional revising to make it work for your purposes.

So, I customized the font in a few ways and I thought I'd share these tips. Follow these in order as you customize a font for your logo, title or masthead. But first, before you even try doing any of this I have one tip. Write the letters yourself! Grab a marker, try a few different tips, write them big, small, on paper, cardboard, etc. See if you can't draw the letters and get them just as you want before downloading a font. If you don't want to go through the trouble, then let's get to the fonts.

You're voiding the warranty.
Before you go tweaking any fonts on your own, a note of caution about the classics – Your Helveticas, Garamonds, and so on. Those are more than just fonts, they're freaking typefaces, drawn to exacting specifications for very particular purposes by master typographers. Adjust those at your own risk. You're better off adjusting fonts that are already hand-drawn. Their organic personalities will much better tolerate your tweaks.

Move the letters around.
Before you try editing the actual letterforms, try moving each one independently of the others. Move them closer or farther from each other. Move them up and down. Change the rhythm and beat and flow of the letterforms to your taste. In my case, I straightened out the letters in my masthead a bit so they followed the same baseline.

Adjust the thicks and thins.
Look at the vertical strokes of each letterform and try widening them or narrowing them. When you do so, make sure the strokes still maintain a relatively consistent width from end-to-end. If the width does change, make sure it does so gradually, without the harsh perfect angles indicative of a computer font. In my case, I made the vertical strokes of the Ps wider than the rest of the letterform. I also moved the counterspace of the Os a little to the top-right so the lower-left stroke is a little thicker.

Rotate, resize, but keep proportions in mind.
If you still want to to customize the font, try rotating an individual letter a few degrees clockwise or counterclockwise. I definitely recommend this for repeating letters in hand-drawn fonts where slight deviations make the whole graphic feel much more authentic. In my case, I rotated the Os and Ps. I also resized the "AND" so it wouldn't be as prominent as the two names. I made "AND" shorter, but kept the horizontal strokes didn't get thinner in the process.

Finally, change the actual shapes.
Once you've done all these edits, you may still want to make some edits to get things juuuuust right. In my case, I noticed these really sharp angles in the A and N in "AND" that just did not fit the flat terminals in the rest of the letterforms. So I cut off those angles to make them flat.

And that's it! In the image at the top of this post, you can see how the original plain font looks compared to the customized version. Doing these little tweaks helps make your logos and titles stand apart from the pack. Just remember, these are tweaks. If you go around stretching fonts willy-nilly, don't tell anyone you were following my advice. ;)
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.